Adult Animation Revolution: ‘Animation Is Cinema’
by Tito W. James
Animation is an art that includes every single art that you can imagine. Animation for adults is a fact. It’s happening. Let’s call it cinema. This is just the beginning of what we can do with animation.
During the 2022 Oscars, The Windshield Wiper directed by Alberto Mielgo (The Witness, Spider-Verse) won the Oscar for best Animated Short. Mielgo’s sentiment that “animation is cinema” struck a chord given that during the same awards ceremony, Oscar hosts made several verbal jabs belittling animation as a medium. Animation for adults is a fact and is rapidly growing every year. From the upcoming slate of video game adaptations to rising stars creating their original adult animated projects, narrative-driven adult animation is happening.
It’s worth noting that this year’s Oscar selection of animated feature films have diverse protagonists. This proves that audiences will respond to female, gay, and ethnically diverse characters, which has historically been an uphill battle behind the scenes in animated film and TV. These characters will have profound impacts on viewers who have always dreamed of seeing themselves reflected in a medium we all love. These characters and their stories are what will be remembered, not an insular awards show that most viewers can’t even sit through.
Much like comic books, video games, HipHop, Science Fiction, and Fantasy, animation is a form of artistic expression that will be frowned upon by some, but will ultimately prevail in the grand scheme of things. No one knows that they are living in the Renaissance until after it is over. From the animation I’ve seen in the last year alone, I believe that we are in a Golden Age of animated storytelling. We are going to see stories explored that we couldn’t even conceive of in the last 30 years. Any animated story (whether it’s for kids or adults) that maintains a commitment to artistic excellence, narrative sophistication, and complex themes, is cinema.
We have the privilege of witnessing a metamorphosis of the animation medium and an opportunity to contribute to art history. This is not just about the history of animation production and perception but the legacy of expressive art that becomes part of human history and culture. I look forward to being surprised, thrilled, shocked, disturbed, aroused, perplexed, frightened, touched, challenged, and inspired by the animated stories to come.